It goes up and it comes down

At some point, the heavy metal guitar became the heavy metal guitar. Was is through canny contours? Blunt, garish, fetching color? Appliqué chic? (Japanese flags, British flags, mudflap couture, cartoony horror, thexy lad(ie)s...) Low action, locking tremolo systems, high gain 'buckers? Neck through construction? Straplocks for over-the-shoulder histrionics? Sharkfin chevron triangle wedge markers? And in more recent iterations, extra everything: gain, length, weight, strings, frets, horns, and cripes amighty, robotic mechanism! (And at its best, aesthetic and functional lockstep entanglement.)

But what is heavy metal? Is it teased long hair? Not so much anymore. Is it winking working class signifiers? That mantle is the province of "new country" and only a trace remains in the current (i.e. not-yet-household-name) scene. Is it musical gymnastics by the engineering minded offspring of the reasonably moneyed and worldly aware? Sometimes. Is it the dare to harness the fury and confusion of youth (of history, of humanity) into a canonical commodification? If so, there are rapidly and expandingly well-trod paths to achieve this; you've got your sequencers, your machines of practice, your portals to educational satiety, and your distribution channels, provided, a) you're intrepid b) you're artistically fearless c) you're lucky d) you love toil with no remunerative guarantees, and e) if you go to scale, you've got reproduction of the inception of awesome on your agenda for the duration of the popular eye's focus on your craft.

And guitar is eye candy, so that's a given, though increasingly inexpensive lighting effects and thrillingly attainable officeplace desk dressing constitutes the stage aura for many of the main attractions on the festival circuit in 2015. And the sounds a guitar makes, more or less, are available for reappropriation via any number of software "solutions" and hardware hacks. So there's nothing singular or novel in a piece of wood with, as Keith Richards sagely observed, "6 this way and 12 that way," plus we're running out of (desirable) wood, running out of (desirable) 4 chords and the truth, running out of patience, whoa Patience could sweep the world, but you can't get attention without resorting to volume upsizing upscale upswing upyours up and up and up and up and up until hey has that guitar got a plug, 'cause it seemed like they were lip synching, or whatever you call the equivalent if you've got a piece of wood on a string around your collar. 'Cause that's what it seems like to the people who remembered what it was like when Jimi did it. He was electric, and now we measure such things in terms of points, and market shares, and he just tore that shit up, and the money crunchers were kept at a respectful distance from the framed magic made for you for not so much money that it factored into your remembrance of the concert. Will they say the same of Coachella?

We can enjoy the guitar in the aftereffects of all this frenzied reductionism, since there's other much more effective ways to achieve ubiquity now, and they are all but destined to succeed where the guitar won't. The guitar will play on, for certain, with increasing effort and detail, though with less cultural import, and heavy metal (the look, the feel, the sound) will enjoy a similar soft landing. That's not such a bad thing. Adapt, adept, adapt!

In my personal development, I take all this with stride. The force of history is accelerating, and I'm passed up in my quaintness. On the horizon, though, I imagine some further exploration of African bass line stylings, and continued acceptance of pitches, intervals, chords, and timbres I was socialized to dislike. Can you believe it? Certain chords made (a select few) people so upset that they created rules to keep everyone from enjoying these sounds? Break that barrier and then other barriers tumble.